Usually, the sentence, "I'm American", is used. Is it OK if I say,"I'm an American." instead of "I'm American"? If not, why? What's the difference?


2 Answers 2


"I'm American" means 'My nationality is "American" '.

"I'm an American" means '(There are many citizens in America and) I am one of them".

American, as adjective, refers to one of my attributes, that is


An American, as noun, refers to the entity "American citizen". I am such an entity.

  • 1
    There is an anecdote based on this difference. Henry Kissinger meets Vladimir Zorin, both are Jews. Kissinger: Hey, Vladimir, I've heard you're a Jew? Zorin: No way, I'm Russian! Kissinger: If so, I'm American. Don't know whether it works in English, though. Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 13:45
  • I think most people who see a difference between ethnicity and nationality would understand the anecdote.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 14:06

I'm American means that you are American, the adjective form. This means relating to America.

I'm an American means that you are an American, the noun form. This means that you are a person from America.

On Dictionary.com, it says this:


  1. of or relating to the United States of America or its inhabitants.

  2. of or relating to North or South America; of the Western Hemisphere.

  3. of or relating to the aboriginal Indians of North and South America, usually excluding the Eskimos, regarded as being of Asian ancestry and marked generally by reddish to brownish skin, black hair, dark eyes, and prominent cheekbones.


  1. a citizen of the United States of America.

  2. a native or inhabitant of the Western Hemisphere.

  3. an Indian of North or South America.

  4. American English.

  5. a steam locomotive having a four-wheeled front truck, four driving wheels, and no rear truck.

The definition that are relevant to this question would probably be defintions 1 in the noun and adjective forms.

Saying I'm an American would be fine.

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